Is It Really Possible To Transfer To A Four Year University From A Community College?

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In the higher education setting, “articulation” refers to the formal process that universities and colleges use to review courses and check for equivalency between community colleges and universities. An articulation agreement is a contract established between a community college and a university (or several universities) to accept a student’s completed community college courses as credits earned when they transfer to a public or private four-year institution.

These agreements specifically point out which courses may transfer to the four-year university to satisfy general education requirements. It also specifies that a university will agree to accept the community college’s requirements for majors and electives. In practice, articulation agreements are supposed to make credit transfer easier for students who are moving up to a four-year institution.

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What are “Articulation Agreements?”


Before an articulation agreement can be written, the individual community colleges and universities have to have common sense transfer policies for students. After all, when a student believes that 50 out of their 60 credits will transfer, they will be disappointed if only 20 or 30 of those credits actually transfer. This may be due to genuine confusion on the student’s part, or it may be because the schools have not set up a sensible process of determining which credits will transfer or not.

Will developmental (remedial) courses transfer? Will courses in which the student earned a low grade transfer? Students want every credit to count toward their degree. After all, they already did the work.

Universities may have valid reasons for not accepting certain types of credits, such as developmental classes. They need to be assured that every student’s transfer credits indicate that the student has truly learned material that will be critical to their college major. At the same time, receiving institutions want to know that incoming students who transfer from community colleges won’t eventually drop out. The finding is that, if community college students have successfully transferred at least 90% of their credits, they will be at least 2.5 times more likely to graduate with their bachelor’s degree.

Articulation agreements go far in ensuring this outcome but universities don’t look only at a student’s completed credits. They also look at that student’s GPA and this affects the decision to accept the student or not.

These agreements are intended to help transfer students to transition easily and smoothly into their new institution. Accepting universities don’t want to make transfer students repeat coursework they already completed in community college if at all possible. Some community colleges and universities work to make as much information available to students as possible. This includes Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), general information about courses that are accepted for transfer, course transfer guides, and program transfer guides.

Students can set themselves up for success by learning as much as they can about the credit transfer process, why certain credits aren’t approved for transfer, and why an acceptable GPA can help them. Even information such as which universities and community colleges have articulation agreements with each other can help. This way, the student spends much less time browsing online to find the most suitable university to accept them. Their searches are much shorter as they look for the right schools and programs.

Can Articulation Agreements Transfer Whole Degrees?


Yes. Some articulation agreements are written to accept entire associate degrees. Others simply identify individual courses that students planning to transfer should take while they are still in community college.

As an illustration, if a student is majoring in respiratory care, they can find out which community colleges offering respiratory care preparatory health courses are included under the articulation agreement signed by regional community colleges and four-year institutions. Each community college will be listed and, if it’s still offering respiratory care, it will appear under the current academic year. If students aren’t quite yet sure what they plan to major in, they can find a list of community colleges they can apply to for admission.

Community colleges and universities structure their articulation agreements so that they align closely with each other. Most agreements are based on transferring students completing their associate degrees. Even so, each student should still communicate with the university they hope to attend and ask them to evaluate their current transcripts so they get a better idea of what may transfer over.

Each university may provide information to students in different formats. Some may choose to offer information about other colleges and universities with which it has agreements; or they may publish pertinent majors. Some schools may make public transfer agreements with the entire state college and university system.

Can One Community College have Articulation Agreements with Multiple Four-Year Universities?


Yes. These agreements are intended and designed to help build strong working relationships between different schools (community colleges and universities). These agreements work by identifying coursework that is similar, so students who transfer from one school to another will be assured that their allowable credits will transfer to a second college or university.

Students can easily learn which class credits will transfer and which won’t. Once they know which class credits transfer, they are likely to choose their courses more carefully.

These agreements are made by way of partnerships between community colleges, technical schools, and four-year universities. Representatives of each school take part in meetings between staff and faculty before they sign an articulation agreement. Each representative looks at the similarities in textbooks, syllabi, course work, curricula, and competency/outcome profiles so they can ensure an easier credit transfer to the accepting partner institution.

Each articulation agreement sets out guidelines, expectations, and a means of dissolving or amending terms of the agreement should the partnership no longer work. Agreements also cover any benefits that one institution may provide to another. As an example, students, staff, and faculty may receive a discount per credit hour when they enroll for classes at a partner university.

One school can have articulation agreements with several institutions. For example, Rochester Community College has more than 35 articulation agreements with other community colleges, technical colleges, and state universities. Some of these articulation agreements are also written for four-year universities and community colleges in nearby states.

On some college websites, you can find a complete list of the required semester credits. By completing every course, you will have also completed the general education requirements at the university with which it has an articulation agreement. You may also be required to complete a set number of credits in upper-division courses. This means that once you become a student at this university, you won’t spend four years earning your bachelor’s degree. If you complete the upper-division courses in your major, you may have as little as a semester’s worth of upper-division credits remaining to be earned.

If you plan to enroll in an out-of-state university or college, you should be able to do so. Should your plans be to enroll in a private college, as long as your community college in this state has an articulation agreement with that private college, you’ll be able to transfer once you have earned your required community college credits.

If a Student has to Take Classes as a Transfer Student While Enrolled at a Home Institution, will They be Covered?


Transient students are students who are already attending a different university or college. They may need to take one class or more that will transfer back to their home university or college so they can complete the degree requirements of their home institution. If their home institution has signed an articulation agreement with the receiving university, then the class credits they take should transfer, as long as they earn the minimum required grade.

This process is known as “cross-enrollment” in some states. The process is initiated when the student fills int a Transient Form. The form allows the student to request approval for the courses taken as cross-enrollment. Once the form is filled, it is sent within three business days to the student’s college advisor’s office and the Office of the Registrar.

The student fills out this form if they plan to take the courses at an out-of-state or private university. If the courses the student wants to take at a different university are available at their home university, their request will only be approved under highly unusual circumstances. These rules may change based on what college or university you are attending. Make sure to check with your school if you are looking to take classes at another school nearby.

Colleges and universities that partner in Florida participate in a statewide group, Florida Shines, which offers innovative educational services that assist students in connecting to every college and university in the state. Florida Shines works to make requesting course transfer from partner institutions as easy as possible. As long as the desired course or courses are available on the receiving university’s schedule, the student should be able to enroll. Once the student’s home university has approved the application, it will be electronically sent to the receiving university (such as Florida State College at Jacksonville).

The best solution for students needing to take classes at a different institution is to take summer session classes. It’s their responsibility to verify that the course(s) they want to take at the receiving university will transfer to their home university.

The best way to ensure that desired classes will transfer is to look up transfer articulation details and agreements, using a list of colleges in your state. If your home and receiving universities have an articulation agreement, this will let you know if the course(s) will transfer.

Do Articulation Agreements Cover More than One Major?


Articulation agreements allow students who have already declared majors to transfer from a technical school or community college to a university. The best articulation agreements between community colleges, technical schools, and universities agree to cover a long list of majors.

When this happens, partner schools generally group agreements by major, which makes it easier for students to find the information they need. If, for instance, a technical school or community college offers human services counseling, it may have an articulation agreement with a four-year university. This allows a human services counseling major at the community college level to more easily transfer into a Bachelor of Sciences in Human Services.

By reviewing what a student plans to major in, a receiving school in an articulation agreement is easily able to verify that student’s planned major in the receiving four-year university. If the student has plans to transfer to a private university, this should also be covered in the articulation agreement.

When to Transfer


The “when” of transferring is controlled by the specific requirements of each individual school. Some schools require their students to complete a minimum number of credits before they can transfer. At the least, students should earn their general education credits before seeking to move to a four-year institution.

Some students may choose to graduate with their AA or AS before they transfer. However, other students may choose to transfer earlier than this, maybe even as soon as they have completed their critical general education credits. They may also choose to complete some early credits within their majors. A Baccalaureate Degree Plan gives students a way of transferring from a community college upon graduation.

Articulation agreements will spell out any timing requirements. Students should speak to their advisors or the Office of the Registrar at their colleges to find out just how the articulation agreements may affect their decisions and future path.

College Transfer Programs are specific paths established by community colleges or technical schools that will allow their students to transfer to the four-year universities in their articulation agreements. These paths consist of general education courses (usually 30 to 34 credits). Along with additional credits within the student’s intended major, this program are intended to make it easier for a student to transfer to their chosen four-year university.

Are Those Articulation Agreements Worth their Signatures?


Now to the less positive side of articulation agreements. Yes, they do attempt to make things easier for you as you transfer from a community college, technical school, or even another four-year university. However, they can’t help you deal with “transfer shock.” That is the name for a real reaction to transferring from a familiar learning environment to one that is vastly unfamiliar. Your grades may fall by about 0.5 points. This can happen to students who transfer from any type of institution to another. Before and after you have transferred to your new school, you’ll have to make the same kinds of adjustments you made as a freshman in your first year of community college or at your original university.

You may find this shock setting in because of different academic standards at your new school. If you have doubts about your academic abilities, this may also affect your adjustment process. You may approach your classes differently than other students who are confident of their abilities in the classroom. And, if your GPA drops far enough, you may decide not to return for your second semester at your new school.

You need to be aware that this condition isn’t permanent. Once they complete their first year in their new school, most students recover from transfer shock. However, if you reach this point and your GPA still doesn’t recover, then you are at an even higher risk of leaving school.

When you transfer from your first college has a bearing on the severity of transfer shock and your risk of leaving school altogether. If you wait until you have earned all your general education credits and you have graduated from your AA or AS program, you’re more likely to succeed in your new school.

Other difficulties for transfer students include the articulation (transfer) of your previous credits and curriculum issues. If you don’t feel confident in how much you know about your new school, you may have doubts after the fact.

Transfer of credits is now more difficult than it used to be. Some students have asked for increased communication so that they can get the information they need when they need it. University advisors and faculty need to communicate more with students and create a better working relationship so that the process is streamlined and easier to understand.

Transferring students think that every credit they have taken will transfer but that’s not likely to happen. Developmental credits (remedial courses), non-degree or graduate-level credits, life experience or credit-by-examination credits, and military work experience (military credit) won’t transfer. Basic training courses will be accepted in transfer to fulfill the general education requirements in some states.

Are Articulation Agreements too Broad or Narrow?


It may be neither of these. Instead, consider that community college students are a unique population set. More often than not, they take more than three years to graduate or even complete a transfer program. Also, community college students may not approach classes with the same intensity as their university equivalents. They are more likely to take courses part-time so that they can work.

Community college students who plan to transfer need to complete a different range of entrance requirements, depending on the four-year university or college they may be considering. They have to look at prerequisite courses that help them get into a major. If a school has several campuses, that one student could be confronted with several different prep courses for their planned major. Community colleges and four-year universities have to craft a program that meets the needs of most students planning to transfer.

In short, academic preparation for transferring students should be one of the first considerations. Students need to fulfill particular requirements to succeed.

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